Dr Celia A May

Dr Celia May
Lecturer in Genetics

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3032
Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3378

E-Mail: cam5@le.ac.uk


I am interested in understanding fundamental processes like mutation and recombination that generate DNA diversity and which may contribute to disease and drive evolution.

Personal details

BSc (Nottingham), PhD (Nottingham)

During my studies at the University of Nottingham with David Parkin and Jon Wetton, I exploited some of the most informative of genetic markers, hypervariable minisatellites and other tandemly repetitive sequences, to gain insight into reproductive strategies and diversity within and between small isolated populations of diurnal birds of prey. These studies identified the first polymorphic avian sex-specific markers, as well as an extremely mutable locus with a pronounced sex bias in mutation rate. This raised my interest in understanding the processes that generate such variation and served as the impetus for joining Sir Alec Jeffreys' world-renowned research group in Leicester.

As a post-doc, I turned my attention turned to humans and the application of single-molecule PCR approaches to quantify de novo mutation events in both sperm and somatic DNA.  The latter including environmental monitoring of cell-lines exposed to a variety of model mutagens. The underlying mutation processes were established by exploiting the subtle differences between repeat sequences within given minisatellite arrays and helped establish significant differences between the germline and soma.  This same approach of looking at sequence differences within minisatellites was used in a study with John Armour (now at Nottingham) to examine diversity of human populations from around the world. This timely work provided support for an "out of Africa" origin for modern humans.  At this time, I also addressed issues of dose-response and timing of human minisatellite mutation induction following radiotherapy in collaboration with Marvin Meistrich (Anderson Cancer Center, Houston), Keiji Tamaki (now at University of Kyoto) and Yuri Dubrova (Leicester).

I was appointed as a Lecturer in 2006 and continued to collaborate with Alec Jeffreys in the study of recombination until his retirement in 2012.



PubMed at the US National Library of Medicine for this author: Dr CA May

Leicester Research Archive: Dr CA May

Google Scholar: Dr CA May




To further our understanding of recombination, we are using single molecule approaches applied to human gametic (sperm) DNA to examine both cis- and trans-acting factors that influence the rate and fine-scale distribution of reciprocal crossovers and non-reciprocal gene conversion (non-crossovers). We have made significant contributions to the understanding of PRDM9 variability and activation of meiotic recombination hotspots, as well as transmission distortion and the ensuing meiotic drive that leads to their eventual demise. We are currently interested in temporal variation of hotspot usage and have a long-term interest in studying male recombination in the pseudoautosomal regions of the X and Y sex chromosomes.

We are also studying the mutation dynamics of avian matrilineally-inherited sequences using massively parallel sequencing approaches. Both mitochondrial DNA and the sex-determining W chromosome pass exclusively via the female lineage in birds allowing mutation processes in these different cellular compartments to be examined whilst perfectly controlling for demographic effects.

As part of the Alec Jeffreys Forensic Genomics Unit at Leicester, we are also involved in development of novel forensic tests, primarily for combatting wildlife crime, as well as review of human cold cases.



I contribute to all levels of undergraduate as well as postgraduate teaching in the field of genetics.


Other responsibilities

Postgraduate Research Tutor (Admissions)


PhD projects

Search Find a PhD.com for this supervisor: Dr CA May
Departmental PhD Project page for this Supervisor: Dr CA May



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Contact Details

Department of Genetics
University of Leicester

Adrian Building
University Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3374
E Mail: genetics@le.ac.uk

Head of Department
Professor Jacqui Shaw

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